Riding a motorcycle can be an exhilarating experience, but it comes with certain risks and challenges, including distracted and aggressive drivers, left-turning vehicles, and road hazards.
In 2021, there were 76 deaths, 276 serious injuries, and 441 minor injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. The department also identified some of the most common factors that contributed to motorcycle accidents. These include unsafe speed, following too closely, failure to yield, inattention, and drunk driving. Improper acts or movements, which include improper backing and lane use, failure to secure the load and to signal, disregard for warning signals, and sleepy drivers, also added to the number of accidents in the state. Additionally, a number of serious motorcycle accidents occurred on interstates such as Interstate 40 and Interstate 35.
The state recognizes the need to educate and train motorcycle riders to gain the appropriate skills to navigate through traffic and handle the challenges on the road. This will then help reduce serious injuries and fatalities involving motorcycles. In line with this, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Plan 2023 outlines some of the state’s strategies, such as conducting motorcycle rider training, deploying traffic safety messages through paid media, and initiating public education programs. Furthermore, the state has been implementing motorcycle-related laws, rules, and regulations to reduce, if not zero out, accidents on the state’s roadways and to protect the lives of riders, passengers, and pedestrians. These will be discussed in detail throughout this article. This document will also go through various policies and legislation that can help motorcycle accident victims with their cases.
Oklahoma Motorcycle Endorsement and Learner’s Permit Requirements
You must have an L endorsement on your current Oklahoma driver's license to be authorized to drive a motorcycle throughout the state. Otherwise, you need to apply for a motorcycle permit prior to receiving a motorcycle-only restricted license.
You are eligible for a motorcycle endorsement if you currently hold a valid Oklahoma Driver’s License. If you are over 18 years old, you are not required to apply for a permit. The process is as follows:
Prepare your primary proof of identity, Social Security number, and valid proof of motorcycle liability insurance.
Schedule an appointment or proceed to a Service Oklahoma Licensing Office. During the visit, you will undergo a vision test.
If you have completed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course, the written and driving tests will be waived.
If you have not completed an MSF course, you will take a written general knowledge test together with the vision test. You may then schedule an appointment for the driving test.
Upon passing your vision, written, and driving tests, a temporary license will be given to you, which you can use until you receive your new driver’s license with an L endorsement by mail.
Motorcycle Learner’s Permit
You are eligible for a motorcycle permit if you are over 14 years old but under 18 years old or over 18 years old but wish to receive a motorcycle permit for additional practice. The process is as follows:
Complete an MSF course.
Prepare your primary proof of identity and Social Security number.
Schedule an appointment or proceed to a licensing office. If you have not held a permit or license, you need to take and pass the Class D general knowledge test. During the visit, you will undergo a vision test. If you are under 18, one of your parents or a legal guardian should be present at the time of the tests.
If you have passed the required tests, you will be given a learner’s permit.
After holding your learner’s permit for 30 days, you will be eligible to apply for a motorcycle endorsement.
Schedule an appointment to take a skills test at an approved Service Oklahoma driver’s license test site.
If you have a motorcycle endorsement or license from a different state, you will be allowed to ride your motorcycle in Oklahoma. However, if you are caught riding a motorcycle without a license, you will be subject to a fine of $50 to $300. The authorities may also put you in prison for up to 30 days if the fine remains unpaid or you have been charged with the same offense before. If you have a driving ban and continue to ride your motorcycle, you will pay a fine of $100 to $500 for the first offense, $200 to $750 for the second offense, and $300 to $1,000 for the third offense. If you are caught for the third time, you may also be imprisoned for up to one year.
Oklahoma Helmet and Equipment Law
In 2021, 69.7% of people who died in a motorcycle accident were not wearing a helmet, according to the OHSO. Oklahoma does not require motorcycle riders aged 18 and above to wear helmets. However, Oklahoma Statute §47-12-609 requires motorcycle riders under 18 to wear a safety helmet.
Additionally, motorcycles should be equipped with two rearview mirrors not less than three inches in diameter each, a windshield, a properly operating speedometer, a fender over each wheel, a noise-suppressing system, and a horn. The handlebar should also not be higher than the rider’s eye level. In addition, motorcycle riders should wear protective eyewear unless the motorcycle is fitted with a windscreen that complies with the specifications set by the American National Standards Institute.
Oklahoma Lane Splitting Law
Some motorcycle riders will try to move between motor vehicles during heavy traffic. Lane splitting is a practice that is illegal in Oklahoma. This can be dangerous because other drivers do not anticipate approaching motorcycles when changing lanes or turning. Oklahoma Statute §47-11-1103 does not allow motorcycles to pass other vehicles between lanes of traffic while traveling in the same direction.
Oklahoma Motorcycle Speeding Law
Speeding is the most common cause of motorcycle crashes in Oklahoma, based on the 2021 Highway Safety Crash Facts Book. It showed that 22.8% of the 1,285 motorcycle crashes throughout the state were due to unsafe speed. Oklahoma Statute §47-11-805 prohibits riding a motorcycle beyond the legally posted limit. Riders under 16 years old are also not allowed on a highway with a minimum speed limit established and posted. The speed limits in Oklahoma are as follows:
75 mph on rural freeways (a speed limit of 80 mph may be posted on portions of the turnpike if approved by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority)
65 mph on urban freeways
70 mph on divided roads
65 mph on undivided roads
25 mph in residential areas
Oklahoma Drunk Driving Law
DWI is when a person operating a motorcycle has an alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08. When a rider’s blood or breath alcohol concentration is 0.08 or above, it is considered DUI, and if the BAC is 0.15 or more, it is classified as aggravated DUI. A violation of the drunk driving law is punishable by hefty fines, license revocation, and jail time.
Oklahoma Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
Oklahoma requires riders to carry an insurance policy with the following liability limits:
$25,000 for bodily injury or death to one person
$50,000 for bodily injury or death to two or more persons
$25,000 for damage to property
In some cases, these amounts may not be enough to cover damages incurred in a motorcycle accident. Vehicle owners may opt to obtain the following coverages, but this will also mean higher insurance premiums:
Collision coverage - pays for the damages to a vehicle under most circumstances.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage - pays for injuries or damages when the other driver is uninsured or underinsured.
Comprehensive coverage - pays for damages caused by fire, water, wind, theft, and vandalism.
Bodily injury coverage - pays for damages if the policyholder injures or kills someone in an at-fault accident.
Medical payment coverage - pays for medical-related costs, such as dental care, home nursing care, and prescription drug payments.
Motorcycle riders may also present other proof of financial responsibility, such as an Oklahoma automobile insurance plan, a self-insurance policy (for those who own 25 or more vehicles), a $75,000 monetary deposit to the Department of Public Safety, or a bond obtained through a state-licensed surety company.
Riding a motorcycle without insurance is punishable by up to $250 in fines and court fees, 30 days in jail, a one-year license suspension (or until you provide proof of financial responsibility), and vehicle impoundment. The offender is required to pay a fee of $275 plus an administrative fee of $125 to reinstate a suspended driver’s license.
Oklahoma Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Oklahoma is an at-fault state for insurance claims, which means the negligent party's insurance company should pay for the damages and injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident. Each driver's insurance provider will send an adjuster to the scene of an accident to assess who is to blame. Victims must submit a claim to the insurance company of the at-fault driver to get compensation for their damages.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, victims of motorcycle accidents are entitled to seek compensation either by settling outside of court or filing a lawsuit. Settlement amounts may vary from case to case based on various factors, such as the extent of the damage, the severity of the injuries, the insurance policy limits of the at-fault party, and the fault percentage of the parties involved. If the case goes to court, the compensatory award may be categorized into two types: economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded by the jury.
Economic damages cover the financial losses resulting from the accident. In general, bills, invoices, and receipts should be presented to prove the victim’s expenses. The state does not limit the economic damages that motorcycle accident victims can recover. They may obtain as much compensation as they need to cover property damage, lost wages and earning capacity, funeral and legal expenses, medical bills, and rehabilitation costs.
Non-economic damages are intangible or nonmonetary losses suffered by the injured victim. These include pain and suffering, loss of consortium and companionship, mental anguish, and disfigurement. Oklahoma imposes limits on non-economic damages: $350,000 for general cases and $300,000 for cases involving medical malpractice. However, there are some exceptions to these damage caps. The court may award damages beyond the cap when the defendant shows reckless disregard for the rights of others, gross negligence, fraud, or intentional or malicious conduct.
Punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant based on several factors, including the severity of the threat to the public caused by the defendant's actions, the benefit of the violation to the defendant, and the extent of the misconduct and any attempts to hide it. The judge also considers the degree to which the defendant was aware of the risk and its excessiveness, the defendant's attitude and behavior after the accident, and the defendant's financial situation. Furthermore, if the defendant is a business or another entity, the number and level of employees responsible for causing or hiding the wrongdoing are also taken into account when awarding punitive damages.
The state imposes limits on punitive damages: (a) $100,000 or the amount of actual damages awarded when the jury finds that the defendant has been guilty of reckless disregard for the rights of others; and (b) $500,000 or twice the amount of actual damages awarded when the jury finds that the defendant has acted intentionally with malice towards others.
Oklahoma Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
Oklahoma follows a modified comparative fault system, or 50% rule, under which the actions of each party involved in a motorcycle accident directly affect the damages they might receive for their injuries. The percentage of their fault will be deducted from the total compensatory award. For instance, if you suffered $150,000 in damages and the court determined that you were 10% responsible for your injuries, the total compensatory award you will receive will be $135,000. However, if you are found to be 51% at fault, you will be barred from recovering any compensation. For multiple parties involved, the court will determine and assign a percentage of fault to each party. Anyone deemed more than halfway responsible for the accident may not receive any damages.
Oklahoma Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
In Oklahoma, the statute of limitations for seeking compensation for personal injury and property damage resulting from motorcycle accidents is two years. The deadline means the plaintiff should file a lawsuit against the negligent party within two years of the date of the collision. The two-year limitation also applies to wrongful death cases, but the clock starts from the date of the victim’s death. For motorcycle accident cases against a government entity or employee, the victim should file a claim within one year of the accident date. Additionally, if the victim is a minor or under legal disability, the claim should be filed within one year from when the victim turns 18 or when the disability ends.
The deadline for the statute of limitations may be delayed if the injured victim becomes mentally incompetent, which may be resumed until the victim becomes competent again. It may also be paused when the defendant conceals themselves or leaves the state.
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, it is crucial to hire an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney can help you file the lawsuit prior to the deadline. The time limits are in place to protect the evidence's integrity and prevent injured victims from threatening the defendant indefinitely. If you miss the deadline, you can lose your right to obtain compensation from the negligent party.
Legal Resources for Oklahoma Motorcycle Accident Victims
The Oklahoma Motorcycle Operator Manual aims to educate riders and help them avoid accidents while operating their vehicles. This manual, created by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, contains information that will assist riders in developing effective street strategies and safe group-riding practices. It also describes the appropriate way of carrying passengers and cargo.
The Oklahoma Confederation of Clubs promotes communication among and education for all motorcycle enthusiasts. The CoC was established to facilitate club communication, enhance public perception of motorcycle riders, support legislation to advance the motorcycle industry, and provide a neutral location for clubs to convene and discuss concerns. It also protects and monitors riders’ legal rights.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department enforces insurance-related laws throughout the state. It protects consumers by providing timely and accurate insurance information. Citizens may file a complaint, report insurance fraud, or request assistance through their website.
Service Oklahoma is an easy-access website where Oklahomans can navigate through and obtain government services, such as driver’s license and ID card renewal and replacement, license application tracking, and DOT medical card updating. The website also contains helpful articles, which include acquiring motorcycle endorsements, learner's permits, and collision reports.
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